2014’s Pink City remains a refreshing respite from the increasingly maddening modern world.
With the conclusion of each song on 2014’s Pink City, it’s as if Jennifer Castle registers a new entry in a travelogue, chronicling an idiosyncratic journey across a topography that ranges from the tediousness of everyday life to the fantastical and dramatic. Drifting through Pink City‘s songs like a tuft of cloud, a shroud of fog, or a plume of smoke (take your pick), Castle’s feet barely touch the ground. That sense of lightness, along with Castle’s warmest tones on record, are but a few of the reasons why Pink City remains a refreshing respite from an increasingly maddening modern world.
More so than on her previous releases, Pink City highlights Castle’s voice as one of her strongest and most singular assets, in particular, the way in which it illuminates her sometimes cryptic, enigmatic lyrics. Read into lines like “I lift my skirt / for the economy” (“Nature”) what you will, but it’s how Castle’s delivery conveys a heartbreaking surrender to the fates that makes it the first of many tear-jerking moments on Pink City.
While album opener “Truth Is the Freshest Fruit” musically and geographically references San Francisco and the Summer of Love, the communal hippie love-fest the song hints at never fully materializes. As it closes, Castle repeatedly cries, “Born at the end of the year,” leaving listeners to wonder if she’s lamenting or expressing relief at the fact she’s missed it.
Even with all its emotionally charged moments, Pink City never comes across as a studied, intentional album. Clearing her throat mid-song on “Down River” betrays a charming spontaneity, and the fact that Castle is more comfortable making music in and of the moment. And yet, the passing of time suggests that Pink City is anything but an abandoned ghost town of ideas. Aided by Owen Pallett’s unobtrusive string arrangements and casual instrumentation, Pink City continues to welcome new and familiar audiences on its barefooted journey through subdivisions of the sublime, decomposing districts, and across bridges over chaotic chasms. The landmarks are familiar, but through Jennifer Castle’s uncompromising lens, you’ll see this city in a whole new light.
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